‘Tis the season to deck the halls at home… and hotels, too! Many resorts go all out for the winter holidays, decorating public spaces and even guestrooms with twinkling lights and Christmas trees, organizing visits from Santa Claus, and more. These are some of the most magical hotels to celebrate the holiday season in 2019.
1. The Westin St. Francis San Francisco on Union Square – San Francisco, CA
Located in San Francisco’s Union Square, The Westin St. Francis overlooks the city’s iconic ice skating rink and festive Christmas tree; however, it’s what’s inside the hotel that brings the onlookers: a giant sugar castle! The Medieval Sugar Castle stands 12 feet tall and is located alongside the St. Francis Enchanted Castle. Both attractions are open to hotel guests and the general public, as is the hotel’s Sweet Boutique with delicious holiday treats. New for 2019, The Westin St. Francis is also offering the Holiday Hideaway, a festive floor dedicated entirely to families! Guests on this floor receive a kids’ welcome gift of candy canes, holiday coloring books and crayons, plus a ticket to be redeemed for in-room sweets and a “Letter to Santa” kit. At night, magical elves will deliver special treats for everyone in the family and the following morning, you’ll awake to a special delivery of San Francisco-inspired gifts.
2. The Roosevelt New Orleans, A Waldorf Astoria Hotel – New Orleans, LA
The Roosevelt New Orleans is especially beautiful during the holdiday season. The lobby is filled with nearly white birch trees that climb to the ceiling, and is bedecked in thousands of white lights (135,572, to be exact).
Named after former President Theodore Roosevelt, whom also inspired the name “teddy bear,” this holiday hotel includes teddy bears in the seasonal fun. The Crescent City Ballroom is transformed into Santa Claus’s Workshop for a Teddy Bear Tea, hosted on select days in November and December. The fun includes a parade, live entertainment, visits with Santa and a delicious spread of food. Kids also receive commemorative teddy bears to take home.
Holiday Package: The Roosevelt offers a Teddy Bear Tea Package that includes overnight accommodations and tickets to the Teddy Bear Tea. Hurry—seating will sell out!
3. Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center – Auroro, CO
Located just outside of Denver, the newly opened Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center is offering the brand’s signature ICE! event, with a Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer theme. Open Nov. 22, 2019 to Jan. 5, 2020, the fantastical display features more than two million pounds of ice, carved into holiday scenes by artisans from China. The resort is also featuring Cirque Dreams Holidaze, a Broadway-inspired show, and a Naughty or Nice Escape Room. Plus, there will be gingerbread decorating, ice tubing, reindeer-theme scavenger hunts, ice skating and more.
Holiday Package: Combine ICE! with two or more events and save 30 percent on your visit. Or, if you book your stay by November 17, you can save 15 percent on two-night stays and get 20 percent off three-night stays (or longer) on select dates. Check out the resort’s offers page for more information.
4. Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center – National Harbor, MD
The Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center on the National Harbor offers Christmas on the Potomac, with two-million dazzling lights, an indoor snowfall and dancing fountains. It also features ICE!, a massive exhibit of carved creations (amounting to over two million pounds of colored ice!); the 2019 theme is Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
Returning attractions include a Gingerbread Decorating Corner and Build-A-Bear Workshop, and new highlights include Reindeer Rush Ice Tubing, Cirque Dreams Unwrapped Atrium Show, a Feast With the Grinch, The Grinch’s Wonderful Awful Scavenger Hunt, and Winter Square, an outdoor festival space with fire pits, ice skating, and an ugly holiday sweater-themed bar.
But perhaps the most exciting new addition is the Christmas Dreams Suite, which features holiday decor and the scent of fir trees piped throughout the room! Guests of this suite also receive a generous welcome gift, complimentary valet parking, and a one-hour professional photo shoot.
Christmas on the Potomac takes place Nov. 15 to Dec. 30, 2019.
Holiday Package: The Gaylord National Resort is offering several holiday packages; visit Gaylord National Resort Christmas Packages for details.
5. Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac – Quebec City, Quebec
Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City doesn’t need glitz and glamour during the holidays—it’s naturally beautiful, yet cozy in the winter months. Still, upon its transformation into a holiday hotel, it offers fantastic light displays and themed workshops, such as cooking classes, plus visits with Santa!
Holiday Package: Start Christmas in November—that’s the name of the package—with deluxe accommodations, a daily $25 credit for food and drink, $25 spa credit, and access to themed events. The package is available Oct. 27 to Dec. 14, 2019.
6. Mirror Lake Inn – Lake Placid, NY
As guests pull up to Mirror Lake Inn, located in Lake Placid, New York, they’re greeted by a holiday hotel winter wonderland, complete with dozens of lit trees and hundreds of thousands twinkling lights. Inside, more Christmas trees—including one made entirely of poinsettias—are found, and real Christmas trees are placed in guestrooms (upon request).
Mirror Lake Inn also uses its picturesque location to provide holiday fun for families outside. Skate on the frozen Mirror Lake and receive free hot chocolate at the cafe, enjoy a winter bonfire with marshmallows, ride the Toboggan Chute or a horse-drawn sleigh ride, receive a visit from Santa with milk and cookies and turndown services, and take part in the town’s Holiday Village Stroll.
Holiday Package: The inn features a Holiday Village Stroll Package that includes accommodations in a Classic Room, breakfast for a family of four, $50 to be used at participating local stores, and a visit from Santa and his elves. The Holiday Village Stroll takes place Dec. 13 and 14, 2019.
7. The Breakers Palm Beach – Palm Beach, FL
The staff decks the halls with boughs of holly (and so much more) at The Breakers Palm Beach. We’re talking 170,000 twinkle lights, 8,000 ornaments, 12,000 feet of ribbon and 126 bows! Amidst the festive decorations, families can enjoy a holiday tea on select dates in December, and dine at Flagler Steakhouse on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (children’s rates available). The festive decorations will be on display through Jan. 6, 2020.
8. Hotel Fairmont Princess Scottsdale – Scottsdale, AZ
Christmas in the desert? Yes! The Fairmont Princess Scottsdale celebrates the season with so much decor, it actually operates two trains so guests can see the 4.5-million twinkling lights and 80-foot Christmas tree synced to popular holiday tunes. Christmas at the Princess also features an ice skating rink, Build-a-Bear Workshop, nightly Menorah lightings, visits with the Man in Red at Santa’s Secret Workshop, and S’mores Land, where families can ride a carousel and Ferris wheel before roasting marshmallows around a campfire. The event is open to hotel guests and the general public.
Holiday Package: Available Nov. 26 to Dec. 31, 2019, the Family Celebrations package includes accommodations in a Signature Room (plus the option to book a second room at 50 percent off); up to four passes with VIP access to Christmas at the Princess; and preferred reservations at the resort’s restaurants.
9. The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa – Riverside, CA
An AAA-Four Diamond Hotel, The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa celebrates the holiday season with the Festival of Lights. For five weeks, the resort is draped in more than 5 million lights and features a life-size gingerbread house, the world’s largest man-made mistletoe, fireworks, and even fresh “snow.”
Holiday Package: The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa offers several holiday packages, including the Winter Wonderland Suite Package. This package includes a stay in the Kelly Kensington Suite (the “Eloise Suite of the West”), which has been intricately decorated with a Christmas tree, stockings, holiday lights and more. It also includes four Casey’s Cupcakes at turndown; choice of hot cocoa or milk; a $200 dining credit, and a gift bag. Plus, fun add-ons such as elf tuck-ins are available.
10. Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center – Nashville, TN
Head to Music City’s Gaylord Opryland Hotel, where you’ll witness a Country Christmas like no other. This year’s event takes place Nov. 8, 2019 through Jan. 1, 2020, and features ICE!, with more than two million pounds of carved creations and themes inspired by A Christmas Story!
You’ll also enjoy tubing, ice skating, gingerbread decorating, Rudolph’s Holly Jolly Feast, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer: The Musical, and so much more. Bonus: The Gaylord Opryland also has a new water park, SoundWaves Water Experience!
Holiday Package: The Gaylord Opryland Hotel is offering several packages. Visit Opryland Christmas Packages for details.
11. Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa – Orlando, FL
Of course Disney makes the list! Not only does its theme parks become even more magical during the holidays (think “snow” falling on Main Street!), but the Disney World Resort Hotels also get a holiday transformation. One of the best is Disney’s Grand Floridian, where a life-sized gingerbread house greets guests in the lobby. The house is so large that it features a bakery selling all things gingerbread. There’s also a giant tree, and an orchestra performs in the lobby nightly!
Holiday Package: Consider a Magic Your Way Vacation Package for six nights and seven days; rates include tickets to all of the parks. You can’t miss Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party!
12. Omni Grove Park Inn – Asheville, NC
The Omni Grove Park Inn in Asheville offers a renowned National Gingerbread House Competition annually, showcasing the country’s most artistic sugar-and-spice creations. This holiday season, the mountain resort’s halls will be overrun with holiday-inspired gingerbread themes, set among dozens of decorated trees and a giant sleigh. Guests of the holiday resort can view the displays daily; visitors can see them anytime Monday through Thursday, or after 3 p.m. on Sundays, based on parking availability and excluding holidays and the following dates in 2019 and 2020: November 27 and 28; December 23, 24, 25, 29, 30, and 31; and January 1, 2020.
Holiday Package: The hotel is offering a Gingerbread Holiday Package with overnight accommodations; The Art of Breakfast Buffet (daily, per person); gingerbread cookie voucher (per person); and overnight parking (valet or garage). The holiday package also includes unlimited access to the hotel’s gingerbread display. It’s available Nov. 20 through Dec. 30, 2019.
13. Hotel Hershey – Hershey, PA
Hersheypark is fun all year long, but it’s especially magical during the holidays thanks to its Hershey Sweet Lights and Christmas Candylane. Book a package stay at Hotel Hershey, then spend your evening admiring the beautiful light displays, sipping hot cocoa, meeting real reindeer at the park, and even riding some of the coasters.
Holiday Package: The Hotel Hershey offers three holiday packages for families: a Breakfast With Santa Package, Lunch With Santa Package and a Hersheypark Christmas Candylane Package. Visit Hotel Hershey Packages for details.
14. The Greenbrier – White Sulphur Springs, WV
A National Historic Landmark, The Greenbrier has been welcoming guests—including 27 U.S. presidents—since 1778. Join that illustrious company over the holiday season, when the 11,000-acre resort in the mountains of West Virginia celebrates 60 Days of Holiday Cheer.
Thousands of twinkling lights decorate the property, which guests can view during 20-minute Trolley Light Tours. In the resort’s Lower Lobby, an impressive 15-foot-wide holiday display is made entirely of fully edible chocolate. There’s ice skating, sleigh rides, puppet shows and lots of other holiday activities. Plus, each Saturday from Thanksgiving until Christmas, the Greenbrier conducts a tree-lighting ceremony on its front lawn, where Santa arrives by sleigh and gives the command to light up the resort.
Holiday Package: The Greenbrier offers four holiday-specific packages, including a Pre-Holiday Package that includes two nights’ accommodations and a $100 credit to be used at the resort. Visit the resort’s packages page for details and a look at other offers.
15. Fairmont Banff Springs – Banff, Canada
Located in Banff National Park and known as “Canada’s Castle in the Rockies,” the Fairmont Banff Springs already looks like something out of a winter fantasy. During the holidays, a towering tree, poinsettias and other greenery decorate the hotel’s Mt. Stephen Hall, whose stained-glass windows and oak beams might make the kiddos feel like they’re at Hogwarts.
Families can fill their stays here with seasonal cheer by partaking in afternoon Christmas teas, snowflake scavenger hunts and Christmas caroling. A writing station provides all the supplies necessary for kids to draft a letter to Santa, who also shows up at the hotel for crafting sessions and a holiday pajama party. Families can see where he gets ready for his around-the-world voyage by touring the hotel’s Santa Suite, then gather on Christmas Eve to send the Big Guy off on his present-delivering mission.
Holiday Package: The hotel’s Christmas at the Castle Package includes luxury accommodations, an in-room, decorated Christmas tree, and complimentary self-parking. The package is available between Dec. 16, 2019 and Jan. 3, 2020.
16. The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island – Amelia Island, FL
Gingerbread houses are a much-loved holiday tradition. But the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island puts its own spin on the edible décor with the world’s largest gingerbread pirate ship. Adorned with colorful fondant pirates, the 17-foot-long vessel pays tribute to the fact that this North Florida island was a buccaneer hot spot and was even once ruled (briefly) by a pirate in the early 19th century.
The hotel also offers several special holiday meals, including a Christmas Day brunch with chicken and waffles and crab cake Benedict on the menu. On Saturdays during the holiday season, families can attend Santa’s Storybook Tea, which features a buffet of pastries, candy, cakes, cookies and other sweet treats, plus a photo op with Mr. and Mrs. Claus.
Holiday Package: The Holiday Breakaway Package (available through Dec. 30, 2019) includes a guestroom with a private balcony and Atlantic Ocean views, plus a $100 hotel credit per night. That credit can be applied toward a holiday décor package that includes an in-room Christmas tree, lights and ornaments, plus a commemorative ornament to take home.
17. The Osthoff Resort – Elkhart Lake, WI
Historic charm coupled with 500 feet of Elkhart Lake shoreline help draw guests to Wisconsin’s Osthoff Resort year-round. But the beginning of December brings even more reason to visit when the resort hosts its Old World Christmas Market, which celebrates its 22nd year in 2019. Modeled after a traditional German Christkindlesmarkt, it features ornaments, jewelry, woodwork and other specialty items made by international and regional artisans, along with European delicacies like bratwurst, wiener schnitzel and apple strudel. Father Christmas even makes appearances for photos ops and conversations with attendees young and old(er).
In addition to the market, the resort also offers Holiday Workshops where kids can decorate cookies and make ornaments and Holiday Horse-Drawn Wagon Rides that end with hot chocolate. Families can also meet a real-life Rudolph at the St. Nicholas Reindeer Brunch.
Holiday Package: The Old World Christmas Market Package includes a one-night stay and two tickets to the Old World Christmas Market; children 14 and under enter free with an adult ticketholder.
18. Suncadia Resort – Cle Elum, WA
About 80 miles south of Seattle in the Cascade Mountains, Suncadia Resort makes full use of its 6,400 acres and 40 miles of trails for its annual Winterfest celebration. Guests can glide around an outdoor skating rink, take to the trails on snowshoes or cross-country skis, or enjoy a holiday sleigh ride.
For the kids, there’s Snowball Bingo, Tie-Dye Snow Art and Gingerbread House Making (with a bottomless cocoa bar during the event!). At bedtime, little ones can enjoy a visit and a story from one of Santa’s elves or, if they’re daring, the Grinch. Holiday carolers, a Winter Market and visits from Santa also add to the Christmas cheer during the month of December.
Holiday Package: Book a stay during the holidays and receive a $50 nightly resort credit towards your Suncadia Winterfest experience. Offer valid through March 30, 2020.
19. Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite – Fish Camp, CA
Situated adjacent to Yosemite National Park’s South Gate at an elevation of 5,288 feet, Tenaya Lodge already has a lot going for it in terms of location. And that scenic setting becomes the backdrop for its lineup of winter fun.
A giant, 35-foot fir tree decorates the lobby, the largest sustainably harvested holiday tree in the Central California Valley. Outdoors guests find an ice-skating rink and sledding hill, plus an evergreen forest that can be explored by snowshoe or sleigh ride. Special holiday events include dinners with Santa, where kids can hang with the man of the season and participate in holiday games, crafts and activities, and Gingerbread House Workshops where guests can get construction tips from Tenaya’s culinary team.
Holiday Package: The Kids Dinner With Santa Package (available November 24) includes a one-night stay, a buffet kid’s dinner with Santa and his elves, and a holiday adventure for one child (4 to 12 years old) that features holiday crafts and activities.
Beth Luberecki is a Florida-based freelance writer who writes about travel, business, and lifestyle topics for a variety of publications and websites. She enjoys exploring destinations close to home and farther afield with her husband and tween-age daughter. Visit her website at bethluberecki.com or find her on Instagram, @bethluberecki and Facebook, @BethLubereckiFreelanceWriter.